Borough seeks public input at Elm Street Project meeting

September 28, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - As the Borough of Chambersburg moves forward with plans to revitalize 24 blocks surrounding its downtown area, residents at a public meeting Wednesday for its Elm Street Project offered a choral caveat: Don't forget the people.

"Don't forget the individual," Eric Bell of Chambersburg said to the Elm Street Advisory Council. "America is built on individuals."

Jack V. Jones, president of Building Our Pride in Chambersburg Inc. (BOPIC), a nonprofit group aligned with the Elm Street Advisory Council, stressed to residents present at Wednesday's meeting that the majority opinion of the individuals would direct the plans drafted by the town.

"What is done will be what the majority wants," he said.

Chambersburg is in the process of drafting a plan to submit to Pennsylvania's Elm Street Program, a state program aimed at providing grants and other incentives for revitalizing neighborhoods.

The town received $25,000 from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development to draft the plans for its Elm Street Neighborhood.


If the plans are approved, the town could receive $50,000 to $250,000 annually for five years to implement the plan.

While residents admit the 24-block area, stretching from Falling Spring Creek in the north and Derbyshire Road in the south to High Line railroad in the east and Franklin County Housing Authority in the west, could use improvement, they remain wary over issues of eminent domain and resident input.

"I am concerned about abuse of eminent domain," Bell said. "I have seen this happen in many areas."

April Shower, a representative of Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, the planning and engineering firm consulting on the plans, said that eminent domain, the ability of the government to take private property for public use, is only one of many tools the town has available for its Elm Street Project.

Glenn Manns, a member of the Chambersburg Borough Council, said that the council would like to steer clear of using eminent domain for the project.

About 30 residents attended Wednesday's meeting, but Jones said that BOPIC is seeking wider input from residents. According to Jones, every resident in the area who gets a utility bill has been mailed a survey to fill out on the proposed revitalization.

Residents, however, feel that those who should be reached remain outside the loop. Rosanna Johnson of Chambersburg, criticized BOPIC's efforts saying that the group is trying to reach these residents at places they do not go.

"They have boxes at the YMCA, the recreation center, but this is not where these residents are," she said. Johnson suggested that the council take their efforts door to door.

Paul Cullinane, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., said that the council will hold another town meeting in late January or early February to present residents with a draft of the plan.

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